HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: I was thinking of all kinds of ways to introduce debut author Anne A. Wilson. I wanted the best possible hook, since I needed to let you know Anne is an amazing writer with an incredibly exciting (and inspirational) backstory and a fabulous book and…and then I thought, hey.
Just show ‘em the cover.
Is that not the best ever? Is that not irresistible? And it nails the story, and Anne, too. She graduated from the United States Naval Academy and served nine years active duty as a navy helicopter pilot, which included deployment to the Persian Gulf.
I ask you.
What’s more, The Naval Helicopter Association named Anne and her crew Helicopter Aircrew of the Year, an award given for search and rescue.
When I first started thinking about HOVER, I thought it must be a thriller. After all, as part of the synopsis says: A Navy SEAL Team that requests Sara as their pilot…The endgame of the SEAL’s mission is so secret, even Sara doesn’t know the reason behind her mandated participation. When Sara’s life is on the line, can she find her true self again and follow the orders of her heart before it is too late?
But you know, it’s not a thriller, really. It’s women’s fiction, where the main character just happens to have a thriller-ish job. And why not? So that’s extra wonderful.
Jungle Reds, here’s Anne Wilson—to tell us how it all happened! And we’re giving HOVER to one lucky commenter!
From Navy Sea Stories to a Novel
Thank you, Hank and Jungle Red Writers, for graciously hosting me on your blog. This is the launch week for my debut novel, HOVER, a story set in a U. S. Navy battle group, about a female navy helicopter pilot, who is unaware she is being groomed to fly a highly classified Navy SEAL mission.
Readers of HOVER have told me they’ve enjoyed trying to guess which scenes are “real.” They ask, “Did that actually happen to you, Anne?”
You see, I served as an active duty U. S. Navy helicopter pilot for nine years, often the only woman in a squadron, on a ship, or in a detachment. During my first deployment to the Persian Gulf in 1993, my roommate and I were the only two women on our ship, one with a crew of 500. And in our battle group, which numbered 7,000, there were just four of us. Probably no surprise that a woman making her way in a man’s world is one of the themes in my book.
Readers also ask, “Are you Sara?” referring to the main protagonist. Well, I’m not exactly Sara, but you’ll find a lot of my personality in her. For example, I took great pains to avoid standing out as a woman—never wore a skirt or dress or anything remotely feminine to leave the ship on liberty. Didn’t use makeup. Hair always pulled back in a ponytail. Happy in my uniform. Gender neutral all the way.
Whether this was the best approach to integrating into a such a male-dominated work environment is another thing altogether, as it didn’t necessarily allow for a healthy connection to my feminine side—something I attempt to flesh out in the novel through Sara’s character.
I kept journals during my time at sea, so when I decided to write HOVER, I dug them out of boxes in the garage and combed through them for ideas. Many scenes in the book are pulled straight from them—names and any identifying details changed, of course. And because truth tends to be stranger than fiction, many of my readers guess incorrectly when considering a scene, thinking surely it was a product of my imagination, when in fact, you can find it in the pages of my journals.
That time in Hong Kong? When my character Sara is standing duty as the shore patrol officer and has to mediate a dispute between a mamasan and the sailor who partook of her prostitute’s services? Yep, that really happened. In Thailand, though. And the dispute? The sailor didn’t realize, until he was in bed with the prostitute, that she was really a he, at which point, the sailor refused to pay. As shore patrol officer, you’re judge and jury for cases like this. After hearing both sides, certain services were indeed rendered, so I made him pay up.
Throughout my navy career, I was privy to an endless number of sea stories, told by commanding officers, salty old chiefs, and others. But as the years ticked by, sure enough, I came away with a few of my own. Never in a million years did I think I’d be sharing my sea stories within the context of a novel, but I hope you have as much fun reading them, as I did writing them.
HANK: Anne’s next book is already in the works—so what do you think, Reds? Amazing, huh? (I love flying in helicopters—it’s glorious. Even though once, the pilot tried to scare me on purpose by flying really low over some high hills in a glass-bottomed Jet Ranger (I think it was?)—and then howling with laughter at my terrified reaction as the bottom dropped from under us as we flew by the hills. But you would never do that, right, Anne?)
Any questions for Anne? Are you a fan of helicopters?
Helicopter pilot Lieutenant Sara Denning joins a US Navy battle group with little fanfare, and that’s just the way she likes it. Sara’s philosophy is simple—blend in, be competent, and above all, never do anything to stand out as a woman in a man’s world.
Somewhere along the way, Sara lost herself—her feminine, easygoing soul is now buried under so many defensive layers, she can’t reach it anymore.
When she meets the strong, self-assured Lieutenant Eric Marxen, those defenses start to falter. Eric coordinates flight operations for a Navy SEAL Team that requests Sara more than any other pilot. This blatant show of favoritism causes conflict with her colleagues; Sara’s sexist boss seems intent on making her life miserable, and her roommate and best friend—the only other woman on the ship—is avoiding her. It doesn’t help that Sara’s interactions with Eric leave her reeling.
The endgame of the SEAL’s mission is so secret, even Sara doesn’t know the reason behind her mandated participation. When Sara’s life is on the line, can she find her true self again and follow the orders of her heart before it is too late?
Anne A. Wilson graduated from the United States Naval Academy and served nine years active duty as a navy helicopter pilot, which included deployment to the Persian Gulf. The Naval Helicopter Association named Anne and her crew Helicopter Aircrew of the Year, an award given for search and rescue. She lives in Fountain Hills, Arizona, with her husband and two sons. Hover is her debut novel. (Forge Books, June 2015)